I wasn't comparing 1998 Stanford technology to 2016 AWS as if it was apples to apples. The "AWS" was a modern analogy to give an idea of what they didn't have to spend money on compared to other startups. In 1997, if you didn't have a university to host your (potential business) website, what were the options? You could call up one of the IBM/HP/Origin managed data centers and have them rack some servers. But that costs money, and requires a contract, etc, etc.
The university charged NCSA for the privilege of occupying the tenth shittiest building on campus. And we joked about what other crappy building they'd gift us when they finally got around to giving us the space we had requested. Their definition of building us new space was to build a building for someone else and give us their hand me downs.
And of course they owned all the IP and charged a pretty big tax on all of the income. I'm fairly certain we brought in almost as much money as the football program (who got a stadium upgrade the same year class sizes were increased to save money).
I have no illusions of Stanford having a more generous program. All that free stuff isn't actually free.